Honey bee populations have been declining precipitously over the past decade, and multiple causative factors have been identified. Recent research indicates that these frequently co-occurring stressors interact, often in unpredictable ways, therefore it has become important to develop robust methods to assess their effects both in isolation and in combination. Most such efforts focus on honey bee workers, but the state of a colony also depends on the health and productivity of its queen. However, it is much more difficult to quantify the performance of queens relative to workers in the field, and there are no laboratory assays for queen performance. Here, we present a new system to monitor honey bee queen egg laying under laboratory conditions and report the results of experiments showing the effects of pollen nutrition on egg laying. These findings suggest that queen egg laying and worker physiology can be manipulated in this system through pollen nutrition, which is consistent with findings from field colonies. The results generated using this controlled, laboratory-based system suggest that worker physiology controls queen egg laying behavior. Additionally, the quantitative data generated in these experiments highlight the utility of the system for further use as a risk assessment tool.
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